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Down time

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Eliot’s fingers smelled like onion for the first time in way too long. Finally, there was dirt under his fingernails again and he was back in his apartment and it was quiet. He had started a chicken stock on the stove earlier and the onion he had chopped up to put in there had stained his fingers with its juice and he could cup his hands up over his nose and smell it. Goddamn if that wasn’t a great feeling.

In compliance with Eliot’s - well, demands, the team was finally taking a week off. A week to recuperate, to simmer down, to spend some quality time doing whatever the hell they did when they weren’t all up in each others’ faces.

Eliot was sore and his knee had been killing him for a month now and he had stuff to do.

Nate got it.

Sophie got it, maybe a little too well, judging from the looks she had kept giving him when he stiffly bent down to retie his boots or when he kept rolling his bum shoulder.

He thought maybe Parker got it? But couldn’t be too sure, she just seemed a little preoccupied designing her latest contraptions.

Hardison was the one getting all bent out of shape about it. For the most part, surely, the man was just acting sore about it. Just kidding around with his “What, like you got something better to do?” and “We get it, man, you’re just getting too old for all this ass kicking, am I right? Bet you get all kinds of discounts at the movies now. Ever tried Bob Evans?”

Like hell. This was so worth all Hardison’s smart ass remarks. He’d gone for an easy jog this morning, and then to the farmer’s market, repotted four new plants and rearranged the ones on his porch in accordance with the storm forecasts for tonight, and was then finishing up a grocery list for a store run. Beyond that, he didn’t know what the hell he was doing for the rest of the day, and it was awesome.

Eliot got up from his barstool to go change from his sweats into jeans when there was a knock on his door. He glared at the door for a second, wondering if he could ignore it, but couldn’t chance it. It might have been Casey, the girl downstairs he’d hired to take care of his plants during jobs. He’d paid her for last week, right? He stomped barefoot over to the door and peered into the little hole to find - Hardison?

“What the hell?” He asked, maybe a little too loudly, because Hardison suddenly looked affronted.

Eliot figured he probably shouldn’t be debating whether or not just to leave the guy there, but he did long enough for a shot of blonde to pop up into his line of vision through the hole in the door and scare the shit out of him. He jerked back in surprise.

“Dammit, Parker -” He exclaimed, and heard the girl laugh.

“Are you going to let us in?” She yelled at the door.

“Don’t shout, Parker,” He answered while unlocking it. “What the hell are y’all doing here?”

“We wanted to hang out.” Parker told him. He wedged his foot against the backside of the door so she couldn’t wiggle past him.

“And I didn't know about this because?” There were only so many exasperated arm movements he could manage while still keeping the door shut against Parker’s weight.

“Because you wouldn’t have let us come over.” She answered, and rolled her eyes. “Duh. Now open up, you’ve never let me see your place before.”

“No, I haven’t, and that hasn’t changed, Parker.” He pointed out quickly.

“Listen man come on,” Hardison began.

“There is no listening going on here, obviously! What part of week off did y’all not get?”

“Week off from work, not each other.” Hardison answered and shot him a grin. Together, he and Parker shoved against the door and pushed Eliot off balance just enough to make their way inside.

“Whoa.” Parker said.

Eliot’s apartment was pretty small. He didn’t need much. But it was open, and there were two great big windows that he had had switched out with bullet proof glass, even though they were facing away from any other buildings tall enough for attacks via sniper. There was some old, comfy, worn in furniture (a soft blue couch, a big scratched up leather reading chair, a big red ottoman, chunky coffee tables), and two book shelves, one with swords and a signed baseball bat and the other with an odd collection of cookbooks, a few books in different languages to keep them fresh, some biographies and a few music books. A guitar leaned up against one of the shelves. The kitchen, obviously, was impressive but surprisingly simple.

The most distinctive aspect of Eliot’s apartments were all the plants. Like. For real. They were everywhere. He had a wall with shelves that were actually deep flower boxes, and pots and more rolling shelves and the whole place was full and cozy and green and purple and red.

There were vegetables and herbs mostly, and they seemed to congregate around the doors onto the porch that had so many plants stuffed out there that Hardison couldn’t tell if you could actually go out there. Further in, out of the reach of sunlight, he seemed to have invested in some succulents, and a small cactus, and a bonsai outside of the plants he could actually use for cooking.

“This…” Parker was already wandering around the place, sniffing and gently touching the tops of all the different leaves.
“This is amazing!” She exclaimed.

“This is crazy, man.” Hardison told him with an incredulous little grin on his face like he couldn’t have imagined anyone doing this, but somehow it made sense for him.

Eliot stood with his arms crossed, one eyebrow raised. He snorted and rolled his eyes at the hacker’s comment.

Hardison noticed. “No, really, dude. I remember when you first bought the place.” Yeah, he had been here. He had installed a security system that Eliot rarely turned on. It was nice to have, though. “It’s awesome to see it filled up. Seems like your space now. It’s cool.”

“This is going to be awesome.” Parker said, already perched on the back of the couch.

“What is going to be awesome? Exactly?” Eliot growled.

“Sleepovers!” Parker chirped back.

“Excuse me?” He asked, and all of a sudden took note of the heavy looking backpack Hardison had slung over his shoulder.

“Sleepovers,” Hardison repeated. Always so helpful. “You do your thing, man, we just figured we could all do our own thing… together.”

“And with icecream and movies and pillow fights and probably little sleeping,” Parker added, and winked.

“This was not - what? No! Not even - why would…” Eliot sputtered.

“Too bad,” Hardison answered, and Eliot wanted to smear that smirk off his smug face as he walked over to the couch as well, and plunked himself down on the couch.

Eliot stood at his door for a while, it standing wide open, while he watched the other two situate themselves comfortably on his couch. He stared, no idea what the hell was going on or how he was going to stop it, until Terry from next door passed his door and offered him a little smile, trying to peak his head around curiously and see what was going on. He realized he needed to do less yelling while his door was open, offered Terry a tight smile, and closed the door in the nosy man’s face.

“What the hell, man?” Eliot repeated, letting his arms flop to his sides. This was not going the way he wanted it to. At all.

“Alright,” Hardison started talking over him. “We’ve got Doctor Who queued up. Blankets. Pillows. Nice. I have Sour Patch Kids, Reese’s Pieces, popcorn, the best soda in the world, aaaaand it is time for some classic Who education.” He started pulling stuff out of his backpack and piling it all on the table.

“Whoa there Mary Poppins,” Eliot said, waving his hands. “It’s 11 in the morning. What the hell’re you eating all that junk for this early?”

Hardison motioned to the computer. “It’s a marathon, duh.” He answered. Like that explained anything.

Parker was up and bounding toward where Eliot still stood in front of the door, swung herself around and hopped on his back. She settled there and Eliot let out an “Oof” at the sudden weight.

“Onward,” She said sternly, pointing to the couch. Grudgingly he stomped over and slanted so she slid off his sturdy back onto the couch again. She kept an arm around his neck though and pulled him down onto the couch with her. Again, grudgingly, Eliot obeyed and eased himself down where she wanted him, which was sandwiched in between the two intruders. She had jostled his sore shoulder while treating him like a jungle gym, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to tell her that.

Hardison watched him out of the corner of his eye and Eliot snarled a little, but there wasn’t any heat to it. Mercifully, Hardison seemed to move on. They all situated themselves more comfortably, which for Hardison and Parker meant inching a little closer to the dip in the middle of the couch that Eliot was making, and for Eliot meant slouching further into the cushions.

The show began and Eliot wondered when he had gone so soft for them.

TBC